MLF Dog Sports

MLF Dog Sports We are an exclusive organization that is dedicated to the promotion of excellence in dog sports.

We offer competitive obedience, agility and herding to handler/dog teams that wish to participate in our programs. The directors of the programs are all well respected and accomplished in their fields, having achieved the highest degrees of excellence in their chosen dog sport. We have been brought together by our common love of dogs and our desire to train and show our dogs together.


Stress for dogs often comes from the teacher, not the task.
If your dog is telling you he’s uncomfortable, it’s important to recognize it and make the necessary adjustments.
Stress often manifests in avoidance of some kind or lack of enjoyment and in either case, your dog is telling you something is not right or he’s not ready for the next step.
Sometimes handlers associate this with the task, ‘my dog doesn’t like X” (ie driving, turbacks, shedding), when actually it’s the way it’s been taught that is the problem.

The issue may include your set up, the pressure from the sheep, your foundation training, his confidence (in himself or you) and/or your mindset.
For example, if you approach a new concept by making it difficult (even inadvertently),
have a set up that doesn’t ensure success, have expectations of how quickly your dog should learn, how proficient he should be or if you try to force behavior, it could be that you are creating the stress that your dog then associates with a specific task.

Just like people dogs can get bored when you do the same thing too often, frustrated when it’s too arduous or disheartened when too often being told ‘you’re wrong’.
He is constantly giving feedback with his body language and demeanor; if he’s not enjoying what he’s doing or showing signs of avoidance he may be telling you he needs you to change your approach.

Empowering your dog to reach his full potential includes practicing patience and having a teaching mindset. The cornerstone of a teaching mindset is an intuitive method. Intuitive training results in more understanding and less correction. More understanding and less correction yields higher confidence and increased confidence fosters enjoyment.
Once your dog is enjoying and anticipating what you’re training, try the next step and make adjustments based on his feedback. Your continuous effort to adjust to your dogs response will help him become the best sheepdog he can be—you can just train or you can partner.


TODAY OUR BREED EXPERT looks at the issue of ‘personal space’ and its defence in Border collies


The sheepdog videos we regularly feature on this page, from shepherd Cathy Cassie, have, we hope, often proved invaluable in affording a better understanding of Border collies in general. In terms of their inherent instincts, characteristics and impulses as a breed, and why these are so essential for the job they were originally born to do.

It’s equally important to realise that, even when we take these dogs away from their working roles, and own them more as companion dogs, or pets, the original drives and instincts of the ‘working’ dog inside them will still remain. All of which have to be better understood, and managed, if we are to live with them most successfully as companions.

In the past, on this page, I have looked at what ‘working’ instinct really is, in Border collies, and how impulses – if not compulsions – in these dogs to ‘eye’, stalk, chase or herd moving things have to be sufficiently understood, rechannelled and controlled if they are going to be owned as social companions instead.

But another aspect of the collie ‘working’ mind I want to look at today is how these dogs may often respond to confrontation, or any more sudden invasion of ‘personal’ space as this, again, can have some real relevance for pet owners.

When you watch sheepdogs working livestock, you will notice that when a sheep suddenly moves too closely into the dog’s head area or personal space, or mounts a challenge, there can be an instant reflex in the dog to lunge out and nip, in order to protect themselves. The dog doesn’t consciously think about this first. It is just a more automatic self-defence reaction to having their personal space suddenly threatened.

If not challenged back immediately in this way, or kept more further away, livestock can cause dogs serious harm. Which is why control of personal space, and control of movement are, instinctively, such massive issues for many Border collies.

And once we understand this, we can also better understand some of the behaviours this might lead to in the pet environment. Like defensive nipping, if we move into their space too fast, or approach them in a more animated or hostile way, especially if they are already in a more heightened state of mental arousal. As the more aroused – excited, frustrated, anxious, stressed afraid – the dog, the more reactive they can also become.

How often have collie owners had the experience of someone more suddenly invading their dog’s space to touch them, uninvited, because they are “always great with dogs”, only for that person to be greeted with a rather more hostile defence reaction? Or your dog mounting the same response towards other dogs who suddenly invade their personal space in a more unwelcome way?

It can take a somewhat higher degree of social tolerance, and experience, for dogs to switch such natural defence reactions off, or mute them down, and also more intense social training from puppyhood. Because often such reactive habits in social environments get learned or acquired early in life by collies, and then become progressively more ingrained.

The same defence reactions can also occur in collies if someone tries to remove them more aggressively, or forcibly, from resources or more strategic parts of the home (front door area, hallways, stair landings) they want to maintain control of. When the key is to no longer allow them access to such areas, if they ever exhibit this kind of behaviour.

When dogs are in more restricted spaces or situations – like in a car, or on a lead – the instinct to guard personal space can become even more intensified, due to the option of ‘escape’ from any oncoming threat now being denied them.

Of course collies can vary tremendously in terms of how sensitive they are to having their personal space invaded, and what their reaction might be when this occurs. Ranging from showing a greater reluctance, or unhappiness, about being cuddled or groomed by an owner, for example, to all out aggression at the slightest perception of threat. For actions like grooming, or going to the vet, can also greatly threaten the dog’s sense of personal space, as well as their inner compulsion to protect it.

Over and above the more inherent nature of the individual dog, how a dog responds to confrontation, or closer invasions of personal space, can also be down to many other things. From genetic factors, or how stressed or aroused the dog already happens to be, to whether it is experiencing some ongoing source of pain, illness or discomfort, where a sense of greater vulnerability triggers the response. But it can also be down to how much respect has been shown by owners in the past to the dog’s personal space boundaries.

For dogs who expect their personal space to be subjected to less welcome, or more hostile, invasions by an owner or other household members any time are always likely to develop a more anxious/defensive mindset.

The reality is, also, that while some collies may more actively seek affectionate forms of engagement with you, other dogs may prefer not to, and are happier to be mostly left in their own space. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with dogs like these. It is just the way they are wired, and we have to respect this.

Collies can be trained to be less sensitive and reactive towards things like people or dogs moving into their headspace. Just like humans have to train themselves to cope with being in more tightly crowded space or places without freaking out. But in the case of more individual owner-dog relationships, vital trust also has to be built. For the more a dog trusts you, the more personal space they are likely to tolerate you entering.

Trust can take time to build. Having lived with Border collies now for so long, it is virtually second nature for me to always invite them into my space, rather than more suddenly invade theirs. Whether I am about to take them for a walk, or do something inherently less pleasant, for them, like clean their teeth, the element of the dog still choosing for themselves to come to me is so important. People use their size, or status, to crash across dogs’ personal space boundaries all the time, because it is ‘quicker’ to get them to do something this way, or shove them here or there, and rarely consider the mental fallout this can have on the dog concerned, either shorter or longer term.

Trust in dog-human relationships is ultimately like trust in any other kind of relationship. Only when it is missing do a lot of other things then start to go wrong.

Meanwhile, all aspects of ‘working’ thinking and behaviour in Border collies – including any issues with ‘confrontation’ - is covered in BOOK ONE of my BORDER COLLIES – A BREED APART trilogy (blue cover), SECRETS OF THE WORKING MIND: In the USA from # and In Canada from And in Australia from:
All text © Carol Price 2023


TODAY OUR BREED EXPERT looks at a less commonly recognised health risk to our dogs this summer:

As the weather hots up for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the temptation is to take our dogs to streams, rivers, or the beach for them to cool off, or give them their own paddling pools.

However, in doing so, do be aware of a danger to them that is not always sufficiently highlighted, and may also be incorrectly diagnosed before the damage is done – and that is water poisoning. Or hyponatraemia. Where a dog simply ingests too much water while swimming, playing or retrieving toys.

A smaller amount of water swallowed – fresh or sea water – may do them little harm, but excess can have devastating consequences.

There are two types of water poisoning to watch out for. The first is from fresh water – i.e. rivers, streams, paddling or swimming pools, or even hoses and sprinklers. Collies can be particularly obsessive about water, too, and may gulp down far too much of it in games where they may deliberately try to make water splash and then bite and swallow it.

The excess water intake then depletes sodium levels in the dog’s body, leading to the condition of Hyponatraemia (water toxicity), which can wreak terrible damage to all other organs in the body, including the brain.

Symptoms can include lethargy, bloating, vomiting, loss of co-ordination, drooling, pale gums and diluted pupils/glazed eyes. As the pressure in the brain increases, and its cells begin to die off, the dog may then have difficulty breathing, develop seizures, or slip into a coma.

Untreated it can be fatal, but sometimes even after treatment, the damage done by the condition can be irreversible. Far more on the subject here:

In hotter weather, you should also be mindful of more toxic algae blooms in fresh water lakes, ponds or rivers that can be harmful to your dog. Often alerts will be put up about these in the form of signs or local social media posts, but if you have any doubts about their presence in water, it is best to avoid the water concerned.

Drinking too much salt water from the sea can bring about a reverse problem of far too MUCH sodium entering your dog’s body. This can lead to similar symptoms to fresh water poisoning like vomiting and diarrhoea but eventually more serious dehydration leading to brain damage and seizures. Again, more details on this here:

If you see the beginning of any of the previously mentioned symptoms appear in your dog after a lengthier spell of drinking or playing in water, get them to a vet immediately, making sure you tell them you think water poisoning could be a possibility, and to urgently check their sodium levels to save valuable time.

Prevention, however, is always better than cure. So do be mindful of the risks of letting your dog ingest too much water, fresh or salt, anywhere. Particularly in one longer period. Also use proper floating and flatter retrieve toys with a rope or canvas ‘tail’ that are easier for your dog to grab and close its mouth round in water, whereas rounder balls bob around too much, and your dog is likely to swallow far more water getting them.

As ever, commonsense is the key. Let your dog enjoy their watery fun and pleasures, while always being mindful of how much water they may be swallowing in the process – as some dogs will definitely swallow far more than others. Do not leave dogs unattended in paddling pools if they persistently try to disturb and then bite and swallow the water. And do not let them do this for more than a minute or so at a time, if they appear to be swallowing a lot of it. The same is true with garden sprinklers.

Also limit how much time your dog spends retrieving toys out of sea water, and make sure you also have plenty of fresh water on hand for them to drink afterwards. Life is always a balance between pleasures and risks. But in this case it definitely IS better to be safe than sorry.
All text © Carol Price 2023


TODAY OUR BREED EXPERT looks at how in tune our dogs are with our feelings:

HUMANS UNMASKED: Why you can never hide your true feelings from your dog

Years ago, when I was riding and training horses, I recall someone saying that “a horse can always tell when they have a more nervous rider on their backs – they can sense it and smell it”. And I knew that this was true, in terms of how differently any horse would behave, according to who was riding them.

The same also is true of dogs, when it comes to how our own emotional states – as well as body language – will affect their behaviour in turn. In that anxious owners often tend to have more anxious dogs. Or aggressive people more aggressive dogs. And dogs can indeed ‘smell’ our fear and stress, as has been revealed via a fascinating study at Queens University, Belfast (Northern Ireland), highlighting how reliably they can detect these heightened emotional states in their owners’ breath or sweat. See this link for more de-tails on the study:

Once we realise this, we can also better understand why our dogs can get so affected by our own life stresses, fears and anxieties, and become more unsettled or reactive them-selves. Particularly dogs like Border collies, who are so exceptionally in tune to their owners’ every change of body language, emotional state, or normal daily routine.

The truth is, in short, that we cannot easily hide what we really feel from our dogs.

This is such an important point to understand, as so often I work with owners who have more fear-reactive dogs; lunging or snapping out at any newer people or dogs who approach them. And if we look deeper at this, we find that the owner’s own tension or anxiety about this problem in their dog can be greatly fuelling or exacerbating it.

Very often an owner’s or handler’s emotional state can act as a real obstacle in training. In that a dog can sense when you are projecting a far more ‘negative’ type of energy – e.g. impatience, frustration, exasperation – and if you bring this into the training process then they will come to associate training as a more negative experience, too. Or even shut down, as soon as you begin training, in anticipation of the more negative, or pressurising, mental experience to come.

If you compete your dog in any particular pursuit, you will also be aware of how differently dogs may behave in competition, compared to training, simply because of the handler becoming more nervous, or stressed, and thereafter not behaving in exactly the same way as they do in training. Often handlers may not consider this, but a dog will always notice the change in the training ‘norm’, when you are competing, and then respond to it accordingly. Similarly handlers may often put far more pressure on dogs when they are competing them, compared to when they are training them, because they may feel under greater pressure themselves. But a dog will always notice this too, and respond accordingly.

An owner’s anxiety about a past ‘fright’ their dog has been exposed to can also leave lasting effects. And if, for instance, their dog has been the victim of some past attack or less pleasant run in with another dog, they may carry the emotional baggage of that trauma forward, every time they see another less familiar dog approaching, and communicate their worry or tension down the lead. So that their dog increasingly comes to associate the presence of other dogs with higher owner anxiety.

It is a perfectly natural for humans to feel dread about the prospect of re-facing something that was previously unpleasant, or even to want to avoid a possible recurrence of it. But unfortunately it also never gets you any nearer to developing a more confident dog.

There is no point in just telling anxious owners to stop being anxious about what their dog might do, or what might happen to them in specific contexts. Any more than it helps telling people who are worrying about something not to worry. But with the right professional help it is possible for an owner to rebuild confidence in themselves, around other dogs, and then transfer that on to their dog. Thus breaking the whole cycle of anxiety.

Meanwhile, all aspects of anxiety, stress, fear and aggression in Border collies – and how to deal with them – are covered in BOOK THREE (green cover) of my BREED APART trilogy; BEHAVIOUR: INSIGHTS, ISSUES, AND SOLUTIONS: In the USA from # and In Canada from And in Australia from:
© Carol Price 2023


TODAY OUR BREED EXPERT looks at why 'Focus' training is so vital for your collie, from as young an age as possible.

FOCUS TRAINING FOR BORDER COLLIES –The key to all better management, control and bonding with your dog

Today I wanted to outline to readers just how vital it is to teach your Border collie to focus on - or 'watch' - you on command, and to consistently find this behaviour rewarding. For without an ability to both secure, and hold, your dog's attention on command, you cannot teach them anything of value, or get them to listen to you and follow an instruction whenever needed.

Collies are natural fixators. In that they are usually driven to seek some target on which they will direct more intense visual and mental focus. And you always want to ensure that target is YOU, in order to keep maximum control over your dog's future behaviour. Failing to secure and hold this focus, on the other hand, will mean your dog either has ever poorer levels of concentration or responsiveness towards you, or the focus will escape elsewhere, instead, on to any number of other fixations, obsessions or distractions that the dog finds rewarding. Or both of these things together.

It is also crucial to understand that responses like higher focus and concentration on you are things that persistently have to be TAUGHT to collies. They are not responses or behaviours that will otherwise just develop by themselves.

Although better focus responses can be taught to Border collies at any age, it is always best to begin this training as early as possible, before - as just highlighted - your dog has the chance to find other things more rewarding to fixate on than you.

Begin with some very tasty treats. Show these to your dog in your hand, then put your hand up to your face - as per our illustration - with a finger pointed up between your eyes. This means that in watching the treat in your hand, your dog is also looking up into your eye area. As they do this, say the words 'watch me'. Then praise and reward (with the treat) your dog immediately for watching you in this way. Once this has been well taught, try to get your dog to watch you for ever longer periods of time - i.e. up to 10 or 15 seconds - before praising and rewarding them.

NOTE: Where most people can go wrong is in always rewarding their dog too quickly for watching them, rather than more gradually drawing out how long a length of time they must focus on them before being rewarded. So if, say, you always reward your dog after two seconds of watching you, two seconds of his or her attention is all you will ever get before they then expect their reward and become fidgety and distracted again if they don't get it.

Dogs who are generally more nervous, or less confident, about making more direct eye contact with people will need to be trained with much more patience, making progress in length of 'watch' times far more gradual.

It is also very important to PRAISE your dog fulsomely FIRST for focusing on you, and THEN give them the reward – i.e. treat or toy. This means eventually that praise itself will become a sufficient reward for them, because of its past constant association with more positive things – although you should still intermittently give your dog treats or toys after praise, for good focus behaviour and responses, to keep these continually reinforced.

If however you always give your dog a reward first, before praising them, they may get into the habit of refusing to focus on you until they see a toy or treat in your hand first.

Always begin focus training at home, where there are fewer distractions, then as your dog's focus responses get ever stronger and more reliable, you can gradually up the level of surrounding distraction your dog has to screen out while still watching you. In-cluding when you go out. This kind of training, in general, teaches dogs not only great-er concentration but also better impulse control.

‘Watch me’ and better focus training can also have so many other future benefits, from calming your dog down from more excitable behaviour to making it far easier to take a picture of them, as they no longer have the same inhibition about looking more directly at you when you ask.

You can also use favourite toys to elicit ever better focus responses in your dog. Again, when initially teaching this, let your dog see the toy in your hand, and bring it up to your face with your finger pointing up (as in our illustration) . In order to get their toy, the dog must then first 'watch you' for however long you ask. Make your dog watch you first always, like this, for some seconds before praising them and then throwing the toy for them.

As a rule, always make your dog watch you first, for some seconds (e.g. 5 to 10 or even more) before giving them anything pleasant like a treat or a meal. Ultimately your dog will learn that focusing on you, on command, is the key to getting anything more re-warding in life. Which will make this behaviour ever more of a chosen habit in your dog, even when you do not ask them to watch you.


When out with young dogs, or dogs still being taught better owner ‘focus’, also get into the habit of regularly praising and rewarding them with treats, or a favourite toy, for simply looking at you, or looking back to you, on a walk – what I call ‘checking in’.

You want your dog to find constantly looking at you, or looking back to you, on walks, a highly rewarding action they will want to keep repeating. Which in turn will also make them that much more attuned to you, and responsive to your commands, when out on walks.

Meanwhile far more on the whole subject of focus training in Border collies, different focus exercises, and how you can use better focus to improve all kinds of training in your dog, appears in book TWO of my BREED APART trilogy, ESSENTIAL LIFE SKILLS & LEARNING: In the USA from # and In Canada from And in Australia from:
© Carol Price 2023

Regretfully we are canceling classes tonight (Monday, 1/16) at MLF Dog Sports because of the rain!  The weather is only ...

Regretfully we are canceling classes tonight (Monday, 1/16) at MLF Dog Sports because of the rain! The weather is only appealing to the froggy! Our Monday classes will resume next week.


TODAY OUR BREED EXPERT Carol Price looks at how you can best get your collie through the festive period

While the festive period may be fun for us, for our dogs it can present a host of potential new stresses and challenges, which we need to be aware of; not just to keep them in a happier and more balanced state of mind, but also to prevent their behaviour deteriorating more adversely under the pressure of it all.

The first thing to bear in mind is that Christmas social gatherings present a number of factors that put most collies under greater mental pressure; namely, far higher sensory input – in terms of noise and movement levels, and stranger visitors interacting or closely approaching them in less predictable ways – and a massive assault on the dog’s more normal, or peaceful, daily routine. And each dog may have their own individual threshold, when it comes to how much of these newer pressures they can take before it begins to more adversely affect their mental wellbeing or behaviour.

Signs of a dog under greater mental stress include yawning, lip licking or grimacing (pulling the lips back), body tucking or hunching up and tail between the legs, or trying to get into corners, under tables or other places away from guests. You never want to get to a point where a dog has to actually bare their teeth to show how stressed they are. Young, shrill, excitable and highly animated children can also be exceptionally stressful for many dogs.

Often owners will not have seen the mental pressure or anxiety building up more steadily in their dog, or read the subtler body signals, mentioned earlier, their dog gave to convey this. Then when the pressure is finally released in some form of aggression, it comes as a greater shock to them. And the dog always gets blamed for their ‘bad’ behaviour.

The longer you live with a collie, the more you get to understand their own more individual limitations, when it comes to how they cope with newer people visiting the home, higher noise levels – or other sources of enhanced sensory stimulation – higher social ‘crowding’ or interaction with others and greater assaults on their need for sameness or the maintenance of more rigid daily routines. And some collies will always cope far better with all these things than others.

Either way, however, you should manage Christmas for your dog according to what they can more individually tolerate, mentally, not according to how you yourself would prefer your dog to behave. I know so many owners who have a desire for their dog to be much more ‘friendly’ or outgoing towards less familiar visitors to the home, or be far less ‘stressy’ about all the sensory mayhem that Christmas can involve in many households, without considering whether their dog actually has the intrinsic mental equipment to deliver either of these things.

So prior to Christmas gatherings beginning in your home, the best advice I would give – as with any other sources of potential stress or anxiety - is to set up some more recognised ‘refuge’ zone for your dog; some safe place where they can go whenever they want to. It could be a covered crate, or bed under a table, or any other place where your dog usually chooses to go when they feel anxious or under par or just want to be left alone. And when they go to this place it is vital that no one else disturbs them, until they feel ready to come out again.

If your dog has particular trouble with visitors to the home, you may also want to separate them even further by placing a dog gate between them and their safe place, and the visitors in the rest of your home. Additionally understand that for some collies, higher anxiety or insecurity – i.e. about visitors – can lead to higher reactivity levels, like growling or snapping or lunging out to nip once their mental pressure gets to a certain height.

Each time visitors come, it can also be really helpful to make some immediate positive connection in your dog's mind with their arrival - like some extra tasty treat, or bone or chew, immediately thrown into their safe area, for them to get and enjoy, and forever after associate with the arrival of visitors. Be EXTRA careful however, to only connect such rewards immediately to the ARRIVAL of visitors and not AFTER they have ALREADY shown more nervous or aggressive behaviour towards them, as this just gives more mixed messages, or could result in rewarding/reinforcing the wrong behaviours in your dog.

Another question I would ask is, Christmas crackers – do you really need them, or need to pull them within more direct earshot of your poor dog? I know many collies who are utterly terrified of the noise made by these things. Plus you do not want your dog to make any more lasting negative connection between the fear caused by cracker noise, and the people or scenario – i.e. Christmas gathering – immediately in view when this fearful experience occurred.

As well as giving your dog a safe place to retire to, whenever the Christmas pressures get too much, it can also really help to maintain as much as you can of your dog’s normal daily routines. And keep things like walking and feeding times more or less the same for them, regardless of what else is going on. Dogs who have been for a good run before visitors arrive are also clearly going to settle down better somewhere than those who have not. It does not matter if the walks are shorter than normal. Just that they happen at roughly the usual time. Measures like these help preserve a greater sense of security in your dog, when everything else going on around them seems much more worryingly ‘different’ or less usual.

Of course you may be someone who has a collie who loves visitors and Christmas and everything that happens around it, but we cannot assume that all collies will be the same. Once again it is a question of tailoring the festive experience to what individual dogs can cope with, if we want greater peace, happiness and harmony to reign in all collie households this Christmas. Which I would dearly wish for you all.

All text © Collieology/Carol Price 2022


20101 E Germann Road
Queen Creek, AZ


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Here is a good video from Brandon McMillan (from Lucky Dog) about helping dogs deal with fireworks:

Hope Ms Anita is doing better 😀Let her know she is missed and in our thoughts
Look Ms Anita ,the butt nugget finally figured it out.
MLF folks competing this weekend at Club Doggie: We are planning on having the 5th wheel out there to "Tailgate" the event. Even if we aren't there, we will try to leave it open so you have a bathroom and a place to relax. Football on the TV. :-) We want to invite our MLF "family" to join us. Bring brats or burgers if you want to grill or your favorite drink... whatever makes you happy. It's a "Grand Design" 5th wheel toy hauler... kind of copper/gold and brownish. I'll try to make a sign or something. Please come by and say hello! My name is Kari. Greg is my husband. AJ, Stevie, and Buster are the dogs (but I think Stevie and Buster will probably stay home).
Carie has been having so much fun with her dog Niki. Thanks to MLF Dog Sports for helping them with their skills to become successful!! They earned 2 Qs last weekend in Novice A Agility (standard and JWW) with a first place in both and now an intermediate Rally Q!!
Your website is not working. I tried several different ways to get in.
Do you guys do herding instinct tests? Are there any open spots this weekend to test 2?
Are we going to have cold wet classes tonight?
Thanks MLF for a great night of Barn Hunting. Dude, Foster and Gremlin had a great time. Can't wait to do it again. Maybe some fun hunts coming up???? We would be there. Thanks again.
We're frens wGizmo's Frens... you have a nice page!
great place to train and meet very supportive people!
Huge congratulations to MLF DogSports first AKC herding champion: Cindy Meadows and Kix did a super job on ducks today and finished their championship! What a great Border Collie, Kix, and handler, Cindy! Way to go!! - Anita